Stuffed pepper & couscous.
Seldom is a pepper ever seen as the star of a meal. Peppers are often retained as accompaniments in stir fry’s or roasts but rarely utilised in their full capacity. This recipe is one that I tend to use on a Saturday afternoon when I want to eat lunch but I know I’m going to be dipping it and showing off in the club later that night.
I’m perpetually hoodwinked by the sordid myth that drinking on a full stomach will stop you getting drunk but drinking on an empty stomach will almost kill you. So I devised this as my happy medium so that I can line my belly for a night of cringe antics and not disappoint my mother who is always on the phone calling me at the weekend on edge of a breakdown thinking that her child is drinking on an empty stomach.
1. Preheat the oven to 200.
2. Take a large red pepper and cut the top off (as seen in the picture) and take out all the stupid bits inside (You know, those stupid pippy things and all the white mess on the walls of the pepper? Has anybody ever used those? Am I missing a trick? Please let me know)
3. Put a small amount of couscous in a bowl and add a cupful of boiled water, placing a plate on top of the bowl to trap all of the steam inside.
4. In a shallow pan, heat up some small bacon pieces in garlic oil, shaking the pan around every now as to separate the small bacon bits to allow them to crisp. Once crispy, scatter a small pinch of dried chillies to the bacon for some warm depth to the meal.
5. Once the couscous has absorbed the boiled water, pour in the juice of a lemon as well as a small amount of butter and salt, stirring through with a metal fork to ensure even distribution – don’t use a spoon. Spoons make the couscous go like porridge.
6. The red pepper from earlier – which has been ripped of its insides and lying on the countertop all exposed and gutted – this is where I turn him into the star. Lightly coat the pepper with some olive oil. Only lightly. This is to ensure that once in the oven, the exterior skin of the pepper acquires a silky gloss while maintaining a crunchy bite to the flesh.
7. Prop the pepper (Peter Piper Propped a Pre Party Pepper) on a roasting dish and spoon a little bit of the couscous into the bottom followed by a light dusting of the bacon bits. This is followed by more couscous and then another scattering of the bacon bits.
8. Grate a very small amount of Parmesan cheese on top of this. The parmesan cheese – once melted – will bind everything together inside the pepper once in the blanketed warmth of the oven. Again, throw in a little more couscous and bacon and a final layer of couscous.
9. Pop the ‘lid’ (i.e. the top half you cut off earlier) to the top of the pepper and carefully slide into the oven. Don’t be alarmed if the pepper falls over – I still have yet to master a way to get the damn thing to stand up straight. My pepper will forever fall.
10. The oven is going to penetrate the pepper from the outside in. look. The warmth of the pepper’s exterior will casually warm the layers of goodness you put inside so the cheese will melt and bind the couscous to the bacon and keep everything warm.
11. Once the pepper has acquired it’s conker-like varnished exterior, remove from the oven and pop on a plate. If you so wish, remove the lid off and add a little more bacon, a final grate of Parmesan and drop a small twig of coriander on top.
“HAVE YOU EATEN?!” will not be the pre-party statement your will dread your mother asking if you know you have eaten this during the day.
Your tastebuds will be happy, your stomach will be lined and your mind can be where it needs to be – focused on a night of drunken buffoonery. Have fun and be safe!